Wednesday, December 13, 2023

TWD Provisionally Established

Next: Taxation Without Representation.

Tuscan Water District, to the surprise of nobody who can count, won a majority of votes in an election that violated every Constitutional legal norm we can think of by allotting one vote per dollar of land owned.

But it still has no funding. Under the terms stated in the ballot itself, another landowner-weighted election is now required to decide whether TWD will A) impose taxation without representation upon hundreds of homeowners; or B) collapse.

And then there's the question of whether the TWD's hidden godparent, the State Department of Water Resources, will be able to rescue it with California taxpayer grants. Watch for DWR to prop up this private government entity with public money if enough property owners do realize that giving the biggest pumpers a blank check to manage our groundwater might not be the best idea.

Here are the numbers from the County's election certification document:

The TWD petitioners accounted for about $300 million out of the over $700 million in assessed property value within the District map. Predictably enough, $309 million worth of assessed land value voted yes.

That represents less than half the assessed value of property within the district.

This is the breakdown by ballots cast:

One could argue, and we're sure the TWD proponents will argue, that even if the ballots had been based on one-person- one-vote, TWD would have won.

However, the biggest share of the ballots by far were no-shows. By our count, another 800 or 900 ballots that went out to property owners either were not returned at all.

(Some of those may never have been received in the first place. But after last year's aborted election, the County Recorder seems to have run a tight ship with this one. Most of those who have reached out to G4B asking why they got no ballot were never going to get one, even though they have wells dependent on the same underground pool. "Sorry," we've said again and again. "The map was drawn to exclude you.")

What's Next

Since it's safe to assume that most who petitioned for TWD would have followed through with "yes" votes, this may leave the second election competitive for opponents. A property tax assessment requires 2/3 approval. Even though the second election will privilege big landowners the same way this one did, 2/3 is a much higher bar.

It's one thing to hustle an obscure, barely comprehensible new layer of government into being by depending on voter apathy. To expect the same apathy when asking for money is another.

Groundwater For Butte got a late start in this game but it isn't going anywhere. We've built the infrastructure to serve as watchdog, news source, and focal point for the public interest. The conflicts over water resources never end, and considering how Butte County has been captured by narrow commercial interests in the past few years, they may only intensify. 

Will you be paying attention and holding elected officials to account? We will. Stay tuned.

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